The decision by Drew Harris, the Assistant Chief Constable of the PSNI, not to investigate killings carried out by the secret British Army ‘Military Reaction Unit’ of the early 1970s will surprise few within the nationalist community.
The MRF was the subject of a BBC programme last year. In it members of that clandestine force boasted of their activities. The MRF was particularly noted for carrying out drive-by shootings in which civilians were targeted. Pat McVeigh and Daniel Rooney were two of its victims. There were others.
At that time it was widely believed that many of these attacks were the work of unionist death squads. Some were claimed by the British Army but it is clear that part of the strategy that the MRF was working to was to heighten sectarian fears.
In more recent weeks Drew Harris’s profile has increased because of his claim that 95 of the 228 OTRs who received letters were linked to 295 killings. The fact that there was no evidence for this and that his claim was based solely on ‘intelligence’ was lost on our more reactionary political elements. He was also, according to media reports, the police officer who authorised my arrest.
The reality is that for 40 years the British state has defended and protected those who kill on its behalf from the legal consequences of their actions. There are countless examples of this.
When the Historical Enquiries Team brought British soldiers in to question them about the killing of citizens they were not arrested. On the contrary they were given tea and scones!
Last year a British Inspectorate of Constabulary report – the HMIC - was scathing in its criticism of how the PSNI handled those investigations.
Today the PSNI knows, and has known for years, the names of those members of the British Parachute Regiment who killed 14 people on the streets of Derry in 1972. Have any of the Paras been arrested? NO.
The PSNI know that the 11 civilians killed in Ballymurphy in August 1971 and the six killed in Springhill the following year – all by the Paras - are innocent victims. Have they diligently pursued these cases? No.
Three weeks ago the British Secretary of State Theresa Villiers criticised what she described as the one sided focus on state killings. Her intention is to create a hierarchy of victims in which those killed by the British state and their families are treated as second class.
This was the British state using shoot-to-kill policies, plastic bullets and indirect state sponsored executions – often of citizens who had no involvement in any aspect of the conflict.
Among other actions the British government was and is directly responsible for is the Dublin-Monaghan bombings which left 34 civilians dead 40 years ago this weekend.
The McEntee report found that the investigations were, ‘significantly restricted in their investigations by the non-cooperation of the British authorities’. Four reports were published by the Dáil into the Dublin Monaghan bombs. The Dáil concluded “that given that we are dealing with acts of international terrorism that were colluded in by the British security forces, the British Government cannot legitimately refuse to co-operate with investigations and attempts to get to the truth.”
But that is exactly what successive British governments, including this one, have done. They have refused to provide information in their possession on these killings.
In respect of the Ballymurphy case the British Secretary of State has now refused a review of the circumstances surrounding those events. She also refused a similar request from the families of 11 victims of the IRA who were killed in a bomb attack at La Mon in 1978 and of course we know that the British are refusing to establish the public inquiry into the killing of Pat Finucane.
The British government is involved in a concerted cover-up of the role of the British government and its security and intelligence agencies in colluding with unionist paramilitaries in the killing of citizens. It also wants to cover-up the role it played in securing for the UDA and the UVF and the DUP founded Ulster Resistance, weapons from the old apartheid regime in South Africa, which subsequently killed hundreds of citizens, including members of my party.
Ms Villiers position is further evidence of a British government determined to prevent victims of British state violence from getting to the truth.
On Tuesday I had an opportunity to raise some of these matters with the Taoiseach in the Dáil. I had 17 questions down out of 37 on the north.
I specifically asked Enda Kenny if he had been given prior notice of Villiers decision in respect of Ballymurphy. He told me that they had been notified the night before but he wasn’t sure if the Department of Foreign Affairs had received a copy of the statement.
There was no effort to challenge Villiers decision - just a meek acceptance of the Brit line. This is typical of the Irish government’s current approach to the peace process. It appears to have no pro-active strategy to engage with British government.
More positively the Taoiseach has promised to visit Ballymurphy and to bring forward an all-party Oireachtas motion in support of the Ballymurphy families. That at least is welcome.